Reports to the Nation: Report #2: Education for Development [Archives:2000/46/Reportage]

November 13 2000

Dr. Abdulmageed Ghaleb Almikhlafi
Sana’a University
Underdevelopment and Education
Underdevelopment as a condition of retardation influences and in turn is being influenced by other conditions of retardation in ways that contribute to the preservation of conditions of retardation and to delaying the transformation of the Arab nation. The material world affects what human-beings attempt to become. It retards their efforts, when they become helpless or passive victims, it limits their possibilities when they ignorantly act for or against it. There has been a gradual realization over a period of time that the development efforts of the past decades have not enabled the Arab masses, either to raise their standard of living economically or to develop their own transformative potentials educationally. In these efforts the model of development was taken to be the western world, and Arabs, irrespective of their own cultural peculiarities and the historical experience they gained in the course of history, were expected to follow the very same path that the west had taken. The tendency was to equate economic growth (GNP) with improvement in the overall quality of human life.
Both assumptions have proved to be unfounded. The development efforts have not yielded the expected results; on the contrary, the exercise has tended to perpetuate the dependence of the Arab nation as an under-developed area in the developed world. Within the national formations of the Arab society, on the other hand, gains elsewhere have made the living conditions of the masses, the majority of whom live in the rural areas, stand out more dehumanizing than ever.
Development in the Arab countries, on affected the dependent bourgeoisie, while the rest remained underdeveloped. And the development of this dependent bourgeoisie in the Arab countries was, and still is, artificial in that it depended on consumerism, not on production. As a result, the value system got mixed up, the educational and cultural systems got disrupted, and the gap widened between the haves and have-nots, the majority and the minority, the city and the countryside. While the dependent bourgeoisie consumed foreign products and used foreign modes, the people could not create their own modes and were thus left behind due to ignorance and retardation. This is the root of educational disparities and inequalities between town and countryside, between haves and have-nots, between men and women, and between physical and intellectual labor. Hence, the education of underdevelopment and the underdevelopment of education.

Development and Education:
One of the great mistakes by the governments in dealing with development has been to seek the advice of economists only. The economists persuaded them that development was simply a problem of investment and resources. They talked about industrial projects when they should have talked about culture and education for human development. Meanwhile, those who were entitled to speak about culture and education, confused culture with folklore and education with training. However, despite the importance of subjectivity and despite the fact that the key to development lies in the sphere of culture, the idea of a purely educative movement operating without regard to the level and character of socio-economic development is an anarchist fallacy. In other words, the development must encompass the subjective and the objective, the transforming structure (TS) as well as the forming structure (FS) of society.
The attempts at transforming the Arab countries after the regained independence, did not result in any meaningful transformation of the lives of the people. The new government adopted strategies to realize the virtuous consumer society. In economic terms, it meant increasing cash crop production and resource depletion for sale to the developed societies, while the industrial process was to start with import substitution industries and eventually, go for heavy industrialization. In political terms, the governments were to ensure stability and lay the basis for democratic society. This politico-economic strategy, regardless of whether it was right or wrong, was not strengthened with socio-cultural programs, including the one for socialization through education. However, the notion of development in the Arab world became entirely characterized by that of alienation. Education has a role in reducing that alienation.
Development as a condition of emancipation reinforced by other emancipatory conditions, must be an aim of Arab education, on one condition that it is understood as a continuous social transformation toward a total human emancipation. Without the development of creative potentials and value systems which correspond with the needs and possibilities of the Arab nation, the criteria of development, the criteria of goal-setting can only be imported from developed countries. If values and goals of the Arab nation represent only replicas of those existing in the developed countries, then the structure of power, the mode of life, the production of new values, in one word, everything will be just a replica of the existing reality in the developed countries. Cross-fertilizing them with its own cultural experiences, can contrive its own emancipatory future. To develop creativity, however, a society has to develop its own human resources. Hence, the importance of education. Talking of development without the development of the human who will undertake the process of development, is the placing of the cart before the horse. Therefore, if Arab nation wishes to achieve not only economic, but also political and cultural independence and equality with developed countries, then development of endogenous creativity, of endogenous value, is a must. Development of an endogenous value system entails the development of an endogenous structure of power, of specific national integration factors such as cultural, educational, scientific, and technological factors. However, development as a condition of emancipation must be reinforced by the promotion of all other conditions of emancipation.